It seems very strange writing about Summer beers whilst sat in my conservatory with the rain absolutely lashing it down and disturbing the peace of an otherwise empty house, but the pubs are starting to fill with beers which brewers choose to name Summer ales.
I am often filled with dread as these beers appear. They are pale, around 4% and often very ordinary. Using pale malt whilst utilising the usual boring earthy English hops does not a Summer ale make.
It really is, for me, all about the hops, and where good brewers like Oakham and Pictish have led with their heavily hopped beers using stuff like Willamette and Centennial, others do appear to be following. You need a bit of citrussy flavour to be a Summer beer. You get that from using the right hops. US stuff, New Zealand stuff, First Gold from here all do the trick. Fuggles and Goldings really don't.
Loads of the pale beers I had at our beer festival last weekend hit the spot because they used the right hops. Hats off to those brewers that haev realised this and are prepared to spend a little bit more on imported hops. I like flavour in my beer and a Summer beer on a hot day needs just the right type of flavour.